In a bid to help end the stigma surrounding dementia, Alzheimer’s Society has launched the Dementia Friends initiative in Wales.
Aimed at giving people a better understanding of dementia and the small things they can do to make a difference, Brecon is one of the first towns to adopt the scheme.
"In Powys there are around 2,500 people living with some form of dementia and this number will only increase in the coming years," said Rhiannon Davies, Chair of the Brecon and Hay dementia supportive community group.
"For many people with dementia, the battle is not about getting a diagnosis and support from the health and social care system, but about the everyday living you and I take for granted. Having control over our daily lives, going to the shops, using the library, getting money from the bank, spending time with family and friends and enjoying hobbies. These are made more difficult by the lack of understanding in our communities and the stigma and fear attached to the condition.
"Older people, including those with dementia, are often more frequent customers of town centre shops. Most say they want to keep going out and about using local shops and services.
"But the main reason they stop is a lack of confidence, which often leads to them staying at home and becoming more isolated and lonely. This is where dementia friends come in. With understanding, support and encouragement we can help people living with dementia and their carers to remain part of the community, continue to be valued customers, be more active in the local area and live better more fulfilled lives”.
A trained 'Dementia Friends Champion' who attended the Cardiff Bay launch last month, Talybont resident Rhiannon is passionate about the initiative.
"For me it’s simple. It’s about social inclusion and recognizing that within the community we can all learn from each other. It’s about valuing and respecting the individual, seeing them for who they are, rather than the condition they have. That is why I got involved, and became a Dementia Champion. The training the Alzheimer’s Society gave was excellent. Getting the message out there that dementia is not just part of the ageing process, and with the right support and understanding people with dementia can live well is so important.
"We also need to recognise how challenging it can be for carers, and give them our support too", Rhiannon added.
To-date a range of community associations, organisations and businesses have benefited from Dementia Friends information sessions in Powys, with feedback being very positive. Over 250 people have chosen to become Dementia Friends, and made a commitment to turn their new-found understanding in to action. Each session lasts about an hour.
For those interested in becoming a Dementia Friend or organising a Dementia Friends session or becoming a Dementia Friends Champion visit www.dementiafriends.org.uk or contact Rhiannon Davies, volunteer, at [email protected] or by telephone on 01874 676617.